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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 50138
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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I'll try to keep my summary of the situation as brief as

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Hello, I'll try to keep my summary of the situation as brief as possible but I would like your advice on the matter.
My employers have the right to view my activity on my work PC to monitor my progress, which I have acknowledged multiple times. But shortly before my lunch break was about to finish I briefly left my desk to go to the toilet, with no internet browser open. Whilst I was away one of my employees took over my PC from his computer and wanted to view my progress and to check that I wasn't doing anything that I shouldn't be doing, which they have every right to do. But I feel that they do not have the right to do is go onto my Facebook to view a private message that I was exchanging during my lunch break, containing some comments of dislike towards said employee that was viewing my PC. I also would like to point out that this conversation was exchanged on my mobile phone and not my work PC.
I come back to my desk completely unaware of what he has just witnessed only to be informed that disciplinary action is being taken against me due to emotional distress on this employee, and he has taken a screenshot of this conversation as evidence to be used against me. Is this not a violation of privacy?

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today.

How long have you worked for this employer for?

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Just over 5 months.
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
I do not wish to switch to a live phone call.

OK no problem at all and thank you for your response. Leave it with me for now and I will review the relevant information and laws and get back to you at the earliest opportunity. There is no need to wait here as you will receive an email when I have responded. Also, please do not respond to this message as it will just push your question to the back of the queue and you may experience unnecessary delays. Thank you.

Many thanks for your patience. I would agree that this is indeed a likely breach of trust and confidence by this employee, but unfortunately your rights are rather limited at this stage. This is mainly to do with your length of service with this employer.

If you have been continuously employed at your place of work for less than 2 years then your employment rights will unfortunately be somewhat limited. Most importantly, you will not be protected against unfair dismissal or constructive dismissal. This means that your employer can dismiss you or force you to resign for more or less any reason, and without following a fair procedure, as long as their decision is not based on a reason which makes a dismissal automatically unfair. These include:

· Discrimination due to a protected characteristic (i.e. because of gender, race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, etc.)

· Taking, or trying to take, leave for family reasons including pregnancy, maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave, childbirth and parental leave

· Being a part-time worker

In the event that the reason for dismissal fell within any of these categories, the dismissal could be automatically unfair and there could also be a potential discrimination claim.

However, if the dismissal had nothing to do with any of the above exceptions then you would not be able to challenge it. In that case your only protection would be if you were dismissed in breach of contract. That could happen if you were not paid your contractual notice period (unless you were dismissed for gross misconduct) or the employer had not followed a contractually binding dismissal procedure. If you did not have a written contract in place you would be entitled to the minimum statutory notice period of 1 week. Your employer would either have to allow you to work that notice period and pay you as normal, or they will have to pay you in lieu of notice.

So it means that they could potentially dismiss you because of this, even if they were the ones in breach. It is the lack of qualifying service which means that they can potentially dismiss you unfairly and you cannot challenge it. I would hope that they do not dismiss but just issue a warning, however be prepared in the event they do decide to go down the dismissal route.

I trust this has answered your query. Please take a second to leave a positive rating by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars above - this is an important part of our process and recognises the time I have spent assisting you. If you still need me to clarify anything else, please reply on here and I will assist as best as I can. Thank you

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